Harpenden complete Great Escape
Last day win seals dramatic survival
HCPL Division One
Potters Bar 168
Harpenden won by 28 runs
IT was a fitting end to the league season that the Joe Peck Jazz All Stars had been booked to appear in the Harpenden pavilion.
As the details of the vital 1st XI match away to Potters Bar were read out by captain Ben Frazer during the regular “Match Report” session, the opening bars to the theme tune of The Great Escape were audible in the background.
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In some ways the scenario had been simple: Harpenden had to beat The Bar and Aston Rowant had to lose to Henley. In other ways, the mathematical equation for Harpenden’s victory was as complicated as digging three tunnels out under the wire of a prisoner-of-war camp. Even Director of Cricket, David “Big X” Doyle, could have been forgiven for thinking that this was a bridge too far.
Bar won the toss and chose to bowl first but Nick Lamb (65* in 129 balls) and Ben Clements (48 in 70) got away to a fine start with 69 on the board before the first wicket fell.
Harpenden knew that they could afford to lose only a few wickets before being forced to declare as well as keeping any total below the 200 figure. Frazer (77* in 67) then launched himself on the attack putting on a further 127 in an unbroken second wicket as Harpenden declared on 196-1 in 43.5 overs.
Harpenden could consider themselves to be under the wire and away at this point but it was still a long way back to Blighty.
Opening quick Ben Mahoney (9-3-36-4) then revved up his motorcycle engine and jumped the fence. In no time Potters Bar had been reduced to 5-5 but with the dangerous Sikandar still at the crease.
Surely Harpenden were not to be denied a win this time? Surely Gordon Jackson wouldn’t fall for the “oldest trick in the book” again as he boarded that train? Nick Lamb (9.5-2-33-3) was on his way to a man-of the match performance but 66 were added for the eighth wicket thanks to Charlie Hodge (24 in 50) and then another 28 for the ninth. Sikandar (99* in 112) was immoveable as the pressure on both sides grew.
An lbw to Lamb left Salman Choudhry to see it through with his partner approaching an incredible century. Lamb to Choudhry, the sound of leather on timber and Lamb was off on a celebratory circuit of the boundary. With Henley also having won the impossible dream became a reality. Harpenden had escaped on the very last day of the season thanks to a fewer number of matches lost.
Frazer was entitled to say his piece on the season: “It’s an amazing result and shows what a great game cricket is. I was confident we could do it but also aware that we had to have a fair slice of luck. Firstly we had to bat really well and Clemmo (Ben Clements) got us off to a flyer. He’s been great for us and finished as one of the top bats in the league.
“At 69-1 we only had a few wickets to play with before we’d have to declare because of the bonus points but Lamby carried his bat and showed what a strong character he is.
“Once we got to 150 I knew the game was ours. If I thought the batting was special then the first 10 overs of their innings was the best opening spell of bowling I have ever witnessed in club cricket.
“At 5-5 off seven overs the game was done. Mahoney’s spell was breathtaking and Fozzie (Pat Foster) got through it for us on one leg and bowled with great heart to get a crucial wicket.
“Potters Bar came back at us as all these sides do and Sikandar was just tremendous but we finished the job off and fully deserved our victory.
“To stay up like this is truly remarkable and it is credit to our belief and attitude. All credit to our boys for achieving this. Hopefully we can now build on this season and look to finish in the top half next year.”
In other matches, Harpenden 2nd and 3rd XI’s had easy wins over weak opponents. David Whiteley’s 2nd XI finished fourth in Division Two and higher than any 2nd XI has been in Harpenden’s history. Simon Wade was very pleased with his 3rd XI side’s solid seventh place in their first season in Division Three.
The 4th XI survived in Division Seven and will look to be stronger next season and the 5th XI were in similar territory in Division 12. The 6th XI will also be looking to improve in Division 14.
The last word should go to chairman Steve Hewlett who said: “We had lived in hope for the 1st XI but we never imagined that the they would demonstrate their full abilities when things were right on the line.
“This is one of the great results under intense pressure. I’m proud of all of our teams, the players, captains and everyone associated with the club. Harpenden is right up there in terms of local league cricket and we will now be looking forward with confidence to 2011.”